In this free video lesson, modeler Martin Tärnrot shows you how to lay model railroad ballast fast and easy. He learned this method from a friend after he expressed how difficult and time consuming he found the process. The base material he will use is styrofoam, and the track bed is Woodland Scenics ballast in HO scale ST1474. He starts by drawing a straight line with a ruler on his foam where he will place the track bed. Setting down and smoothing out a layer of PVA white wood glue, he lays down the track bed to the styrofoam and also uses it to lay down the track over top. This dries for at least an hour with weights over the top to hold it down. This glue also is painted on the roadbed sides and with a Proses ballast dispenser with Woodland Scenics medium buff. The dispenser is an easy way to apply model railroad ballast evenly. He fills in the roadbed sides with more ballast.
Martin has an interesting way for removing excess ballast from the roadbed. He vacuums the track with a sock placed over the vacuum nozzle. The sock allows you to collect and reuse excess ballast. The next step is to reduce the water tension by spraying a mix of isopropanol and water. With the ballast wetted, he secures it with a glue and water mixture which he applies with an eye dropper on the sides and middle. This dries overnight and is followed up with airbrushing. The first layer is burnt umber for the ballast and track and the second layer is a darker brown over just the track. Martin goes on to demonstrate finishing the rest of the environment. For more on choosing model railroad ballast with texture, visit the Model Railroad Academy archives.